Indian captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri would be patting their backs now as their gamble to open with Rohit Sharma has clicked big time in the ongoing Test series against South Africa. Rohit struck two tons in his first two innings as opener and has silenced his critics for the time being. He and Mayank Agarwal seem to have forged a dependable opening pair at the moment. Mayank too has two tons in the series so far.
And the team management would prefer giving a longer rope to Rohit to continue opening in Test cricket. But opening in the all-familiar conditions at home could have been an easy challenge for Rohit. But opening in the tough overseas conditions is a different ball game altogether.
Can Rohit repeat his success at home in overseas as well as an opener?
Luckily, India are playing the next Test at home against Bangladesh. And Rohit will be persisted with even if he does not make any significant score in the remaining innings so far against South Africa. And Bangladesh bowling should be easy fodder for a batsman like Rohit to feast on at home and make a big score. So, the ball is on Rohit’s court to make the best use of this opportunity and make the opener’s spot his very own in Test cricket.
Rohit’s real test as opener
Rohit’s real test as an opener in Test cricket will come in the New Zealand tour in January 2020. India will play a two-match Test series in New Zealand. And it’s the worst place for an opener. The ball swings a lot early on in New Zealand and survival is toughest there. Openers faced the brunt of the new ball and finding edges is more common than water on Mars.
With Rohit being a free-flowing natural strokeplayer, new-ball bowlers would always be in the game when bowling against him.
Only a batsman with tight technique with the ability to leave the ball judiciously and play according to the merit of the ball ‘can’ survive in the tough conditions in New Zealand.
And Rohit does not inspire confidence that he can play the waiting game and tame the New Zealand bowlers when conditions are in batsmen’s favour. He has often been found guilty of playing across the line and in New Zealand conditions, it will be a suicide to not stick to basics.
Rohit’s overseas form patchy
Besides, Rohit’s form in Test cricket overseas is nothing to brag about. He has played 18 Tests away, managing just 5 fifties at an average of 26.32.
On the other hand, Rohit’s batting average is Bradmanesque at home. He averages 90.50 with 5 tons and 5 fifties in 11 Tests at home. All his Test tons have come at home conditions.
But Rohit can take inspiration from Sehwag!
However, Rohit can take a leaf out of Virender Sehwag’s career. Sehwag too was a makeshift opener before becoming one of the best openers of his era. Sehwag flourished as an opener in away Tests as well as he kept his batting simple – if the ball is to be hit, he will go for it, or he played his natural game even in tough away conditions.
He was always given the liberty to do so by the team management then. And Sehwag found success in overseas Tests with his brand of batting while some highly technical batsmen struggled.
Instead of getting buckled down by swinging and moving ball, Sehwag put the pressure back on bowlers in away Tests by playing his counter-attacking game and then made the bowlers bowl to his strength and scored runs off them.
Rohit too can follow suit
Therefore, Rohit can adopt a similar approach or he can work on his batting to counter the tough conditions away from home. The Test series in New Zealand will be the toughest challenge for the Hitman in recent times. And Rohit has always been up for the challenge. The new success as opener proves that.